“Mob Land,” attempts to weave a gritty, small-town crime drama that strives to carve its name into the annals of cinematic intrigue. While it may not blaze new trails for even the most casual film aficionado, it masterfully weaves a familiar tale, harnessing the raw power of a modest indie budget of just $750,000 to deliver a gritty narrative experience worth exploring.
The film’s story revolves around a failed robbery and its aftermath, involving a struggling race-car driver his family and the mafia he least expected to cross paths with.
Set in a small town in the heart of Dixie, Shelby (played by Shiloh Fernandez), a desperate family man, influenced by his reckless brother-in-law, Trey (played by Kevin Dillon) embarks on a daring robbery of a shady pill dispensary. Meanwhile, local sheriff Bodie (played by John Travolta), who finds himself grappling with the challenges posed by addiction has a a crime on his hands that he has to solve.
The New Orleans mafia who seem to have an interest in the spot they robbed bring in a vengeful enforcer Clayton (played by Stephen Dorff) to get to the bottom of the robbery.
The film is directed and co-written by Nicholas Maggio. He presents this gritty small-town crime drama as his feature film debut. As much as the story seems very basic and predictable, Maggio tries his best to make this film unique by using characters that seem endearing to the audience. But some of the characters seem a bit detached from the film’s plot.
Fortunately, he chose a lead that serves a strong enough performance that carries the audience through to the end of the film. Shiloh Fernandez delivers well as Shelby. His portrayal of a sympathetic character caught in circumstances spiralling out of control is well executed making it easy for the audience to sympathize with his situation.
John Travolta also brings his years of experience playing similar roles to the film as Sherrif Bodie Davis. There is some calmness to him that makes the character feel intense and highly driven. Kevin Dillon on the other end also delivers as a villain that you certainly despise throughout the film.
Another thing that works for the film is the cinematography and editing style that seems to complement the production design elements. Right from the start, the film does look and feel like it is set in a small town. You also see and feel the long-existing effects of addiction and its associated vices on the town and its people. The film’s gritty tone is shown tastefully providing the right mood that makes the film seem more expensive than it is.
However, “Mob Land” suffers from notable weaknesses. The film’s pacing is uneven, with some scenes feeling excessively slow, interrupted by prolonged pauses that disrupt the flow of the story. Some of the film’s dialogue also seems a bit too defeatist rather than inspiring and encouraging for persons who might find themselves in similar situations like Shelby.
Despite a potential for suspense and excitement in its premise, “Mob Land” turns out to be quite predictable and fails to deliver a fast-paced thriller. It keeps an uneven pace that is mostly slow and dragged but manages to keep the audience interested with its central characters who are likeable talents. Although there are a few scenes where the story switches up with a bit of violence and bloodshed it doesn’t seem generally like that kind of film.
I would rate “Mob Land” 6/10 based on its visually striking cinematography and commendable ensemble cast. Nevertheless, it falls short of fulfilling its potential as an electrifying crime thriller that could have truly elevated the narrative and complemented the film’s exceptional cast.
If your cinematic appetite leans towards a high-octane, pulse-pounding crime thriller, “Mob Land” might not fully meet your expectations in that regard. However, if you’re in search of a crime drama with captivating, well-drawn characters, this movie could undoubtedly offer an enjoyable viewing experience tailored to your tastes.